Fast cars, legendary race tracks, and Jeremy Clarkson, oh my! Forza Motorsport 4 is here. Is the latest racing sim from developer Turn 10 worth it? If we can get The Stig to stop talking we'll get to the review.
Forza Motorsport 4 does not have a story. The closest it comes is the World Tour mode where you work your way through various races in a "season."
Controls and Gameplay
The controls for Forza Motorsport 4 are the same as they were for previous Forza games, with one slight change. The "rewind" feature during a race has been moved from the "Back" button to the "Y" button. The "Back" button now cycles through your different viewing choices.
While most of the game is played with the controller, a big control change is the integration of Kinect. In the main parts of the game (Career Mode, Freeplay, Online, etc.) you use the controller for racing while the Kinect optionally tracks your head for the cockpit view. You have to sit so the game can register your head, which is easily done. Once set, when using the cockpit view, you can turn your head and look around the interior of the car. The Kinect's microphones also come into use for navigating menus quickly with the mention of key words.
Forza Motorsport 4 also has section that allows you to play using the Kinect without the controller. to race you simply hold out your hands like you are gripping a steering wheel (at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions) and steer, the game handles acceleration and breaking for you.
The heart of Forza Motorsport 4's gameplay is racing, plain and simple. That said there is a lot to do. In the career mode you have World Tour, Event List, and Rivals. The World Tour has you globetrotting around the world from track to track in different races. If you want a little more control over which races you drive in you can go to the Event List and select whatever tickles your fancy. In Rivals various race events are presented to you with your friends, and others close to your skill level, posted times for you to try to beat. Choose a Rivals event and a "ghost" of car the person you are up against will be downloaded to race against. Beat them and not only do you get the credits for the event, but you also earn a bounty of extra credits. Not to mention the bragging rights of beating your friends.
Online you can compete in all sorts of races and games. The games include versions of Tag, "Cat & Mouse," and even Soccer all done in cars. Turn 10 has upped the number of players per race too from 8 to 16, so more motor mayhem for you.
Autovista mode allows you to virtually walk around a car can find out various facts about it. You can open the hood, trunk, and even the doors, and then climb into the car and sit behind the wheel. Inside you can learn even more facts and even "turn the key" to hear the actual roar of the engine. You can also listen to Jeremy Clarkson from BBC show Top Gear give his opinion on the car you are looking at. All of this can be done with the controller or if you want a little bit of "realism" you can do it with the Kinect and "walk" around a car.
Free Play has: Quick Race, allowing you to set up a race outside your "career"; Split Screen, where two players can race against each other on the same system; and Hot Lap where you can race by yourself to set your fastest lap time.
As you can see there is a lot you can do and that's just scratching the surface. I haven't even talked about the tuning, painting, and customizing your own vinyl art on the cars and more.
Graphics and Sound
While it would have been easy for Turn 10 to take Forza 3, add some nice window dressing and call it a day they didn't. Instead they started from scratch for Forza 4. Graphically they increased the amount of polygons on the cars to make them look even more realistic. They did the same thing with the tracks giving everything a familiar, but fresh look.
The sound was also redone. Turn 10 got the actual engine sounds for each car, so they sound as they should, from the low rumble of a classic Detroit muscle car, to the high rev whine of a Japanese drift racer. Interestingly they used a Tesla Roadster, as it has very little engine noise and no exhaust noise, to get all the tire sounds and straight clean tire squeals.
On my review of Forza Motorsport 3 I said it was on par with the de facto racing sim Gran Turismo, now I think there might be a new king. Forza Motorsport 4 is that good. Turn 10's decision to rebuild from scratch allowed them to focus on everything that worked well in past Forzas and make it better.
The ability for a person of any skill level to be able to pick up a controller, pick a car, race, and have fun is something that Turn 10 seem to have perfected. The game also helps you become better. They added rating system that gives you instant feedback on how well you perform certain skills. In turns for example, a little set of four boxes fades in, one box filled in means you went through the turn poorly, all four filled in means your took it perfectly. This same rating system is used for drifting, passing, and going flat out on straight-aways.
One really nice thing Turn 10 did is have Forza 4 be able to read your save file from Forza 3. When Forza 4 first does this it will import certain special cars and a portion of credits based on how much you had in Forza 3. It also allows you to import vinyl groups you created in Forza 3, so you don't have to spend hours recreating that cool design you made.
Another great highlight is teaming up with Top Gear. Not only do we get Jeremy Clarkson's opinions on select cars, but we get to race around the Top Gear test track. You can even create your own "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" moment.
Social elements have also been integrated by allowing you to create or join a Car Club. This lets you compare times, scores, and rivalries easier, but there are other benefits too. A Car Club has a communal garage that allows members to share cars. Say you don't have enough credits to buy the Bugatti Veyron, but you really want race it in a World Tour event. If a fellow club member has added his Veyron to the garage you can "borrow" it.
The Kinect integration is really nicely done. While I prefer racing in a third person view, the headtracking in cockpit view is really fun, making it feel closer to really driving. I can see this working really well for players that own a driving wheel. Meanwhile I like how Turn 10 handled driving with Kinect and controller free. It's a lot of fun, but I wish they have some way of adding the ability to control acceleration and break yourself. I would say it felt like a very well polished tech demo, a look into something for future versions of Forza.
The list goes on and on of things they tweaked or added (more tracks, including the Indianapolis 500 Speedway, AI now has four selectable levels of difficulty now instead of 3,and more). I could write a book on it all and it would all be good. In fact I can think of only one piddly little fault. They did not include the hilarious Autovista review that Jeremy Clarkson did of the Warthog from Halo. Which reminds me of one other fault, too few cars in Autovista. There are a lot of cool and classic cars in Forza Motorsport 4 (Over 500 cars total) and while I know it would get repetitive after a bit (and does anyone really want an Autovista of a 1970 Datsun 510?), it would be nice to see more rare cars in it.
Like I said I could go on, but bottom line is Forza Motorsport 4 crosses the finish line first with a perfect 5 out of 5. I am The Stig and I approve this game.
Forza Motorsport 4 is rated E for Everyone by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). It is available now exclusively for the Xbox 360. For more information see the Forza Motorsport 4 web site.